OFF BROADWAY REVIEW
The 224th production at Off-Broadstreet Theatre, in Hopewell, a tremendously successful dessert theater series, is A.R. Gurney’s “Black Tie." It is the theater’s fourth Gurney play and, like most of his works, examines the ruefully amiable tapestry of marital modes and mores.
In virtually every Gurney play (his friends toss away the initials and call him “Pete”) the characters come from Buffalo, N.Y. They represent the Wasps of that city and follow their beliefs. “Black Tie” does the same. The setting is a somewhat frazzled Adirondack resort hotel, occupied by members of a wedding party, preparing for a rehearsal dinner.
Curtis, the father, (Barry Abramowitz in a delicious portrayal of a man clinging to the edge of a generational cliff) is in the preliminary stages of donning a tuxedo, when his dead father George Agalias appears, apparently with the burden of hosting and toasting. Since the character is dead, playwright Gurney can give him many of the controversial lines of dialogue as well as plenty of the laughs.
The first note of caution the grandfather gives is that customs dictate what Curtis is wearing. It is definitely not “a tuxedo—“ it’s a “dinner jacket.” The second caution arrives quickly. He will not be attending “ a rehearsal dinner.” On the contrary, “It’s a bridal dinner.” His logic is simple: How can you rehearse a dinner?
Afterwards, Mother, named Mimi, played by Susan Fowler, enters and the snappy dialogue continues, even as Grandpa takes his leave. And in due time we will meet Elsie, the daughter, played by Haley Bradstreet, and finally, Teddy, the son and intended groom played by Austin Begley.
The obstacles continue to pile up. We learn that the bride is Croatian, with Peruvian overtones and that her ex-husband, now a rising rock star, has shown up and fully expects to do a hour-long show as his tribute to the bride. Moreover, the New York Times has sent a reviewer and a photo assistant to cover the performance. Curtis, it seems, might be losing both his control of the situation and his “toasting” duties.
The cast of five whips the dialogue around the set with obvious ease. Playwright Gurney doesn’t write gags or big laugh lines, but rather small observations that tickle the memory buttons. This cast knows just how to get the strongest reactions from an audience. So does the director, Bob Thick, who keeps the pace at a pleasant trot.
There are many moments of sarcasm and deviltry in the script, and on opening night, the cast had not discovered all of them. By now they undoubtedly will have.
“Black Tie” continues at Off-Broadstreet Theatre, 5 So, Greenwood Ave., in Hopewell through Sept. 29. Fri. & Sat. at 8p.m.; Sun. at 2:30. The doors are always open one hour earlier for desserts and beverages. (609) 466-2766.